Local West Nile virus patient shares story

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A Valley man is battling West Nile virus, which almost claimed his life. (KFSN)

Fresno County's Department of Health is seeing a spike in people who are currently infected with the West Nile virus.

The Department of Health says so far around our state two people who were infected with the virus have died. Twenty-three cases of the virus have been reported in just four weeks in Fresno County. Now one Valley man is sharing his story to try to prevent anyone else from getting sick.

For years, Jim Wasson has defended people charged with DUI crimes. Now the local attorney is fighting his own very serious battle in a rehab facility.

"I didn't think I was going to survive and that is a pretty dismal feeling to hit," said Wasson.

In late July, Wasson thought he was getting the flu, but about 48 hours later he started to lose all sensation in his right hand, and then doctors found a dangerous inflammation in his brain.

"I would never have guessed that a simple thing like a mosquito bite would have caused so much disaster in my life. I had no idea," said Wasson.

Wasson was diagnosed with the West Nile virus which spreads through a mosquito bite. Most people who are bitten don't get very sick but in a few cases the virus can be deadly.

"There is no cure, there is no vaccine. When you are getting sick you are treating the symptoms," said David Luchini with the Health Department.

Luchini told Action News he's seeing more people get infected here. He said, "I don't think any of us predicted seeing this number of cases this quick. We just started getting cases four weeks ago and we are up to 23 cases, and we are not through August."

Experts say the sickest patients will experience neurological symptoms including paralysis, disorientation and high fevers. Wasson and his wife are reminding everyone to wear mosquito repellent -- a small change which prevents a lot of pain.

"It has completely turned our life upside down. It has opened our eyes to how devastating it can be and how it can completely shatter a family and someone's health," said Denise Holt Wasson.

Health experts are reminding people to clear any stagnant bodies of water around your home. They say mosquitoes only need a teaspoon of stagnant water to breed.

If you want to learn more about symptoms of the West Nile virus and how you can protect yourself, visit www.cdc.gov/westnile.

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